I feel like, I am wearing perfume in the middle of the desert.
I am like, a nomad having a nameless home.
Ten Love stories shared from the series Heroes of Life; these are real love life experiences of the people portrayed here.
Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash
‘I got married at the age of twelve. My husband was twice my age. I cried the whole night by sitting on my wedding bed. He was embarrassed. He shyly said he would allow me to do whatever I wanted to do. He kept his promise. He brought me dolls to play with. But my in-laws did not like my freedom. They asked him to send me back to my parents. When their torture became intolerable, by holding my hands he left his parent’s house. Here, we built our heaven fifty years ago. I played with dolls and then with my five children. By fishing he earned a living for us. Every corner of our hut was built by him. I used to sit beside him, singing songs and he continued to repair our broken bamboo walls. One night he left me alone, he died in his sleep with a slight smile on his face. Our house was his existence for me. I used to touch the fence,the wall and could feel him there. During Aila, the flood washed away my hut. Now there is no sign of my home. Still I come here to find a sign of my existence, try to find him in my lost home’ – Saira Begum
‘She was four years older than me. She was black but more beautiful than a fairy. However, I had never paid attention to her face because her heart was so overwhelmingly beautiful to cherish. I have never seen someone caring like her in my life. If any woman of the village got sick she had to be there. In our village women hardly went to the hospital. Besides being a midwife, she used to always stay with all pregnant women. But in our conservative village, most of the people talked badly about her. No one was ready to marry her. I had fallen for this crazy girl from my childhood. One day I found the courage to tell it to my mother. Surprisingly, my mother fought with everyone to make Hasna her daughter-in-law. We knew that no one would attend our wedding but to our surprise the day we got married more than 100 women from different villages came to wish us well. I never knew she had provided education to all these women also. My wife died three years ago. We have no children. For me, her love was enough. After her death, I donated our only piece of land for establishing a girl’s school. I know she must be smiling from heaven.’ – Rohmot Miah
‘I was thirteen when we got married. I had never seen him before our marriage. When we first met, we were sitting like strangers, who had no idea what actually we could talk about. We hadn’t spoken a word even on our wedding day. I had never thought the man sitting beside me would slowly become the most important reason behind my life. There were days when my in-laws pushed him, asking him to remarry as I could not conceive after five years of our marriage. One day out of frustration, I packed all my belongings and wanted to silently go away from his life. That day, he cried to me, begged me not to leave him. That was the first day of my life when I first realized how lucky I am. It’s been sixty years that we have been with each other. We have always been just by ourselves. There are days when he cannot manage to bring anything from the bazaar, poverty has been always a part of our life. Both of us often fall sick. We are seeing each other grow old and slowly moving towards death. But we never felt alone, never felt our life was incomplete and in need of a child. During the rainy season, he goes fishing and I wait for him to come back. Sometimes, he tells me how much he is afraid of leaving me alone while he has to go fishing at night. Even today, we have no food in our home. And I have no idea when he can bring something for us. But right now, we are enjoying this winter sun, talking with each other about our old days. We know well, very soon one or both of us will die, and there will be no one to cry for us.’ – Saleha Begum
I move from places to places. From villages to villages. Everyone calls me beggar Kulsum. You can call me too. No one knows from where I have come from. I never tell anyone who am I. I had a mansion, surrounded by three ponds and four gardens. It was always hard to fall in sleep because the smell of the flowers was so strong at night. Often times I felt heaven is my home. And there was always my supportive husband. Every morning I prepared uncountable cakes for him and he never let me to wear same saree more than a few times. I never allowed my maids to clean our in-houses; they were responsible for only outhouse. I had passed forty seven years of our marriage life by making cakes, watering trees and wakening up at nights alone when he left for business in far places. I got married when I was ten; my husband was the only friend I had. I had passed my married life by making cakes and wondering at our beautiful gardens. My husband never let me feel alone in our child less life. I remained happy in his light. One day I went to see one of my sick maids, there I accidently met a woman who was wearing the same wedding bangle I had. Eventually by my maid I found out that my husband kept his second marriage secret from me for twenty years. There he had two daughters and a son. I spent my nights by looking at his face and realized how much he had loved me. May be every day he thought to leave me, may be in every festival he wanted to spend his time with his new family, maybe he felt guilt when I put my right hand every night on his chest. ..Because he had loved me and I was his only friend too. I wanted him to be happy without regret. I also wanted a happy memory of my very loving husband with our all ponds and gardens…I convinced one of my loyal maid to spread the news that I accidentally fell in river and swept away. She did it by the exchange of all my gold ornaments. You are talking to dead Umme Kulsum. She died twenty years ago. No one cried for her, neither I. Sometimes people ask me what they will do when I will die and what my last wish is. I said it to no one before you. If ever he arrives by searching me tell him I missed our home, gardens and him every single second of my life. But I wanted him to be free from my love. His happiness is what I wanted if required by my life. And I do not regret what I had done. Sometimes in love you have to leave.
– Umme Kulsum
‘I loved Surma before I knew how it felt to be in love. Her black skin was as beautiful as diamonds; even more beautiful was the depth of her black eyes. My uncle arranged our marriage suddenly while her village doctor father was on his death bed. Her father touched my hands and said, ‘Surma’s mother died when she was born. I was never able to give her the love she needed. I have failed as a father. Promise me, you will never fail as her husband.’ I promised him.
It was raining heavily, I was riding in my boat while my newlywed wife was sitting in the center of my boat with her world. There were her three kittens, one dog, five chickens and a goat. When we arrived at our house, my mother came out to perform some rituals to receive us. After looking at Surma and her belongings she fainted. With hesitation, on our wedding night when I asked her to send back all her animals she attacked me and with her hands she was beating on my chest like I was a drum. Before I understood anything my twelve year-old wife ran away into the jungle; all her animals fled with her. I spent my wedding night searching for my wife and her animals.
When we got married I had nothing, Surma changed every corner of my rundown hut. She was able to repair everything except my mother’s heart. One day I came from work and found her tied up with rope along with her cats, dogs and goats. I rushed to release everyone; she stopped me and said, ‘It’s my punishment. Do not disrespect amma and do not ask her any questions.’ I looked at my mother and she looked away. I was sure, Surma would be able to melt my mother’s heart. But it was too late. After ten years we had no children. One night Surma took my hand over her head and asked me to remarry. I could not control myself and slapped her. She attacked me and again disappeared into the jungle. I went to my mother and told her no one can force me to remarry while I still have life.
It was our ten-year anniversary of marriage. Again a monsoon. That day Surma was very calm and quiet. By looking at her smiling face, I reassured her, I will be only with her for the rest of my life and I could adopt all her animals as the father. She smiled through her deep black eyes. In the evening when I returned she was lying dead in my yard. Villagers had brought her from the river where they found her floating.
Sixty years has been passed. I am still alone, living with only my memories and animals. When my mother was dying she asked for my forgiveness. I couldn’t do it. My love will never forgive them: not my mother, not my Surma. I am still the man who sees those deep black eyes every night. Sometimes I go into the jungle and search for Surma, I want to bring her back to my life again. But she has gone far away; without knowing how much I loved her.’ – Abdul goni
‘My wife has a habit of snoring during her sleep. At night, only she sleeps. I stay awake and listen to her music. When she falls asleep she starts her tempo taxi. It goes up and down and then up again. This room is very humid and we do not have any fan. The window we have is the only source of ventilation. At night, I keep the window and the door wide open for some time so that air can enter into our room. The problem is, when Arju falls asleep, our neighbor starts yelling. She will shout and tell me, ‘Stop the earthquake or we will kick you both out of this slum.’ On this issue, I have had enough fighting with all our neighbors. Oftentimes I looked at her, wanted to wake her up but when I saw her sleeping so peacefully after a long working day, I just could not do it. At the end, I shut the door tightly and also the only window. I can sleep in humidity, with loud music, but I could never stop my tempo and ruin her peaceful sleep.’ – Textile worker Arju’s husband Liton
‘Sometimes I go to visit my ex-wife. I really do not have anyone else to go to. She does not allow me to stay more than a few minutes. Everyone says she is a very bad woman but I know how her circumstances were. I cannot blame her so easily. I was not able to buy her a saree for years. She had starved days after days with me. I heard her crying every night. We lost our only child because I didn’t have money for the treatment….
Now maybe she is happy. ..When I last visited her, she gave me sweets to eat. Now she keeps sweets in her new room since I visited her. Maybe she does not forget how much I love sweets… Life would have been so very different if I could have fed us and saved our child…
I can never hate her for leaving me or for choosing to be a prostitute. I was never able to curse her. For everyone she is a whore but for me she is still my Moina.’
– Komesh Mia (45)
‘I have not gone to work for two days. I have to stay with my wife. We do not have any mobile phone; what if she needs something? We live on an island; people have prejudices against going to the hospital. The boatman did not agree to take us at night when my wife was vomiting so much. Everyone including my parents tried to stop me from taking her to the hospital. But I could not sit silently when she was suffering that much. I navigated the boat at night alone and after facing great difficulty I admitted her into the hospital. This place was full of patients. The nurses told me to wait till they arranged a bed. But my wife was feeling very afraid; that’s why I was telling her one joke after another. I wanted to make her smile; when she smiles everything seems okay.’ – Tayeb Miah
‘I am a very sensitive guy and my wife is a spy. So, we fight more than we eat. Ask what I told her during a fight seven years ago, she will tell you in detail. Ask how she insulted me last night I cannot tell you a word. We have been married for seven years. I never spend a day without my family. Even when she cooks I sit beside her with our children. Yesterday all of us were very happy because we planned to go to watch a circus which was taking place near us. Then suddenly she told me how much she likes the new girl who had started working a few days ago. I said yes, that she is a very innocent girl. She asked, ‘really’? I nodded. And then we had a terrible fight. She stopped talking to me. I asked her a thousand times what I had done. She called over my daughter and asked her to tell me that I did nothing. After going to work she was ignoring me and started working on a different side. I cannot take it. I hate this spying but I cannot live without her nonsense.’
– Morshed & Moriyum
‘I saw her first at a village fair. She was eating sweets. I fell in love instantly. I fell in love when I was seventeen. My father was a farmer, so am I. She was the only girl from the respectable Mia Bari. I could not say anything to her as she belongs to a rich family. But I continued to follow her everywhere secretly and silently. In three years I did not say a word to her. Then a very good marriage proposal came for her and I knew that I had to watch her royal marriage helplessly. On the night of her engagement I cried my heart out sitting in my boat on the riverside near my house. Suddenly I saw someone running towards the boat and before I understood anything, she started rowing the boat. Even in my dreams, I never imagined something like that could happen in my life. The first thing she said to me was, ‘Stupid, you are very stupid.’ It’s been forty years she is calling me stupid every day. I am very happy to be stupid.’ – Makbul Mia ( 60)
A drop of your love got mixed in my cup
I could drink the bitters of life.
You are loved! ❤
That is the note every child received. In five straight days I had reached more than 500 impoverished Bangladeshi children and gifted one goodie bag each that consisted of an item of new clothes, a pair of slippers and chocolate. Then together we headed for the group lunch. The children grinned from ear to ear, laughed and screamed in joy and burst out in happiness. All this happened due to a ‘three day campaign in my Facebook fan page’. I would like to thank every friend who has donated HAPPINESS to these children. Thanks for sharing your world with these children. During five days from morning to noon I had unforgettable moments with street children, child labourers and unprivileged rural children. My friends, in this video I am sharing a glimpse of that joyous experience which which many of you have created along me. I am welcoming you to have a look at what have you brought to these children!
Click in this Link to watch the video: Video of Many Miles Many Smiles
‘Is this mine?’ Salauddin uttered with surprise. ‘Are these all for us?’ with the same surprise, Ratan, Sojib and Yusuf asked. I nodded with a smile and before I could answer, Sojib run up and called out every child’s name they are living with. To my surprise within half an hour about a hundred of children encircled me with a thousand questions. I handed every child one goodie bag that consisted of a new pair of slippers, new clothes item and chocolate. Their sparkling eyes, bright smiles and warm words made the evening unforgettable. Among them a few were not smiling and seemed confused. I patted them on their backs and asked what happened and then questioned them if they weren’t happy with the new things. With hesitation they asked me if I could provide them with some food to eat as they had not eaten anything since yesterday. That moment I decided besides giving them one goodie bag I will also treat them in a good restaurant and make their day fulfilled. When I declared they can have their lunch in a restaurant their happiness exceeded its limit.
There are hundreds of boys and girls who work as child labourers with their parents who work in the brick fields. While Munni was wearing her new given dress, she shared with me, ‘I hadn’t gotten any dress or shoes for last Eid. Today is my Eid day.’ While wearing their clothes and slippers they continued to laugh, showing their new things to each other and continued to giggle as they saw me waving and leaving them.
The hardest part was to buy different clothes and slippers for different age groups. I would like to give special thanks to my students and companions Tutul, Disary and Proshanto for their generous time and effort. By this post I would like to thank each of you who have helped me with time, labour and generosity for this mission.
The scenarios in the factories weren’t different. The child labourer formed a queue voluntarily and continued to surprise me by their gratefulness. I could not imagine a small goodie bag could give so much happiness. When they opened their gifts each of them smiled instantly. Even in the rural village where our ‘First Light School’ has its junior students, those who belong to extremely poor families burst out in joy while receiving their gifts. All of them gathered, lined up and shouted ‘Thank you!’
My friends, see what we have done together with a small three day campaign. Your generosity filled hundreds of innocent souls with the greatest gift of ‘Happiness’. Thank you! Thank you for showing them that there are people in the world who have a heart to love and give.
Shaheen (10 years old) does not feel badly anymore to walk with empty feet. Five months ago when he first started walking without sandals, broken pieces of glass and small sheets of tin oftentimes cut his feet. Sometimes when he would hop onto a running train to save himself from the station inspector, the damaged surface of the train’s step would injure his bare feet which caused him much suffering for some nights. In pain, he could not work for a few days. Nowadays, Shaheen thinks dirt layer surfaces for his feet are actually saving him from injuries.
Abu Saleh (11)
Ali Noor (10)
Ali Raj (12)
When Shaheen’s mother was alive she used to put oil on his hands, legs and hair. Shaheen knew his mother well and if she could see him now, she would do it again. She had never beaten him ever. But after her death when the new mother arrived, she and his father used to beat him every night. Often he had to spend the night in the yard in front of the closed door of his father’s house. One morning last summer, Shaheen left his village and took the train which was coming to Dhaka. He no longer misses his past except for his mother.
Emon Ali (12)
Now he carries the goods of passengers in the train station in bare feet. Even if he wishes to buy a pair of sandals, how will he manage money? And if he does manage to buy them, how will he safeguard them? Yesterday his friend Ismail’s new sandals were stolen and Ismail cried for the whole day. He had bought them with 150 taka by saving two days of income. Ismail now collects empty plastic bottles to sell in the recycle shop and has not spoken to anyone since he lost his sandals.
Like Shaheen and Ismail, Shakil, Jahangir, Baii, Imon Ali, Arman, Emon, Fahim, hundreds of children are moving around in the train station in bare feet. All of them are living in the same condition. Some came here a few months ago and some came years ago.
Every one of them has two similarities. One is that they all walk the whole day in bare feet in order to earn bread and the other is the tragedy of their lives. Most of them left home because of the loss of their parents, or torture by their step parents, or because of acute poverty.
With those small bare feet they used to run away by escaping the eyes of the station master or station police. When the trains arrive or passengers come, they run swiftly over the hot stoned train tracks and take a load on their heads. If they get 10 taka (one cent) they buy nuts for lunch and if they can earn more, they can have rice and lentils. This 7-12 year-old children’s feet are telling the tales of their fate: evidence that tells how they are bearing their lonely young lives on those innocent feet.
Oil Noor (7)
A question to humanity from a 11 year old Maruf:
‘No one cares for us. I cut my feet by broken piece of tin. It bleeds for days but no one stops and asks to help me. Like me hundreds of children are walking in bare feet and no one ever asks us if they can give a pair of slipper. Isn’t this a selfish world with cold hearted people.’
Can we together prove him wrong? Can you donate slippers for these street children and show them that we care about their suffering, their bare feet matters to us? Can we?
I am going to gift slippers to these street children on 7th January, 2016. If you want to donate for slippers please email at firstname.lastname@example.org (NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT MY PAYPAL ACCOUNT) to receive information of paypal or other transaction. you can donate slippers (size 33 – size 40) at our address; those who live outside Bangladesh can as well donate money by paypal and those who are living in Bangladesh but can’t find time to buy and courier slippers can donate by BKASH. To know details you can also message me at facebook (facebook.com/gmbakash/). Please mention your name when making the donation as I will be sharing the list of donors in the next blog post by sharing images of the event.
Lastly I hope my favorite quote will inspire you as much as it inspires me:
I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Rozina counts every day for six months running. Her family starts working long before the sun rises even when her small kids are remaining in the deepest sleep. She feels bad about calling them for work but like every day she cruelly has to do it. Everyone comes to have breakfast when the rice is still in the process of cooking. She rapidly waves her hand and lets the fire rise. During this time she quietly thinks about their time in the village that is far far away from this isolated brick field. She recalls her abandoned home and acutely feels a need to see the village sooner. But her urge quickly vanishes when she also remembers those days of starvation. Jalil sleeps in the bed that is made by gathering brick after brick. Rozina tried to hide those bricks by a flowery bed cover. Razina and Jalil have been married for ten years. Along with their five-year daughter and six year old son her family comes to work in this brick filed for six months in every year.
The houses that have been built by brick field owners are home to 100 brick field workers’ families. Just like Rozina they are living in hope of returning to their village one day. No one decorates their house. If a family buys any new item it goes into a box and it remain there until they get a final call to go back to their real home in the village. Rozina’s red bangles, her daughter’s new shoes, boy’ toy; everything goes into the trunk. She also keeps some precious things of her mother-in-law who dies last year from tuberculosis. Everyone says her mother-in-law died because she worked in the brick filed. Rozina does not believe it. Once the whole family strived for three days and no one died that time. Death is written by fate. This brick field is a way for them to survive; a way to feed themselves and their children.
The sound of songs awakens the brick field locality. The brick field workers start working. They are used to listening to songs from their mobile phones. The rhythm of the songs motivates them to work. Rahmat Miah has been working in brick field for seventeen years. The day he started understanding life he found himself in the brick field. During childhood he used to help his father for transferring bricks or lining the piles. Till today he does not do any work other than working in brick field. After carrying 5000 bricks he can manage to earn 200 taka for doing the bazaar shopping for his family. Sometimes he could save a little amount after cutting all costs. But his body does not help him much. Every month he has to take leave for 4-5 days because of illness then he has to spend out of that precious savings for food or medicine.
Men, women and children everyone remains busy in the brick field. Sometimes when the sun goes up in the overhead a few older men or women fall to the ground. Then they get an hour break. They have to carry or shift or line up 5000-10000 bricks every day. However they loudly chat in a half an hour break. They smoke and talk about the economy and the politics. Women generally rest in silence and sometimes go to their quarters to do quick house chores. Children work continuously. It seems that working is some kind of important game. Small Minara who is just four years old collects coal from the brick field. Why does she collect coal? After a long silence she replies boldly, ‘This is my job’.
During the one hour lunch break they eat a lot. Three plates of rice and lentil is their daily lunch menu. Men who are living with their families eat with them; those who came alone to the brick field eat in groups of men. A few go to take a quick nap. This is a kind of moment when they will not speak or hear a single word. All are tired, very very tired. Life goes on; work starts again after break.
Smoke and ashes blow everywhere. Workers’ bodies turn black in smoke and ashes and their feet turn black like coal. Still they continue to work in a dreamless brick field. In the middle of this Rozina dreams to go back to her village. Rahmat tries hard to save a few pennies, the children continue to collect coal. Very Far from the town the workers of the brick field continue to work to build our urban world.
The wearing of the *hijab reflects the modern Muslim woman’s independence, her new world attitude in which she has a choice in whether she follows this old tradition or not. Her hijab displays her confidence to live life on her own terms and communicates the message that she is respected, intelligent and a pious person in her culture. She is also purposefully not drawing attention to herself vis-à-vis the male population in certain Muslim countries such as Bangladesh.
Beside religious value, this piece of folded head scarf can tell much about a woman. So, what does your hijab say about you? The colour, the style, the adornments, if any, all reflect the individual. There could be stripes or flowers that represent the softness, the brightness. These choices allow a woman to express who she is. The hijab sends clear signals about a Muslim woman and her personality. The increasing trend of wearing stylish hijabs or head scarves among young females in Bangladesh is not all about fashion nor has it been imposed upon them by Muslim parents or family. I have interviewed a hundred young Bangladeshi women and have compiled their opinions in order to know what has most inspired them to wear the hijab.
‘My hijab is my protection from all those evil eyes around me. The hijab is a message to wicked men that they no longer can stare at me rudely when I am on the road.’ – Juthi, student
‘As a NGO worker I have to travel a lot on public transport and sometimes I come home late at night. My hijab is my protection. It’s been 6-7 years that I have been covering myself as I had a bitter experience of street harassment. Men used to look at me and other women as if they were raping us through their eyes. As a woman I felt vulnerable and weak even though I used to wear modest clothes. But I have to confess that from the day I started wearing a hijab, men started to look at me less. I felt strong inside.’ – Siuly, NGO worker
‘I am a housewife. I feel very good after I wear a hijab. Even when I look at girls who wear hijabs it seems very respectable to me. It is one kind of self-protection and my aim is to follow footsteps of pious Muslim women’ – Jesmin, housewife
‘It’s been two months since I started wearing a hijab. I feel encouraged by so many girls nowadays wearing hijabs. Two out of five girls are wearing hijabs. For me it brings peace as my family often remains tense when I am out of the home. The hijab is my protection from all evil looks.’ – Kasfia
‘In Islam it’s mandatory for women to cover their bodies with veils. Islam gives women a respectful place in society. Since childhood I have been wearing a hijab. It has impacted my life as it is not only about folding a cloth and covering the body but it also encourages a woman to stand up and move with dignity. Because from the heart I know I am not only covering my body but also not letting men look at me badly. I believe it gives women respect.’ – Jinath Rehana Sheuli
‘As a student I have to travel every day from home to university. After wearing a hijab for two years I face less evil teasing and it has given me a sense of good feeling that I am maintaining my life in the light of Islam.’ – Laboni
‘You can look stylish as a modern Muslim woman when you wear a hijab. It gives me protection and also makes a woman look very beautiful in a hijab.’ – Mumu, a student
‘Some girls wear hijabs in order to get a good marriage proposal or they just to do it to be in style. But for me it has come from inside. When I did not wear a hijab I experienced men who looked at women as if they were a product on the road and could eye them over any way they wanted. I have seen ill-meaning men’s expressions while on the road. But since the day I started wearing a hijab I have never faced such vulgar looks any longer. My hijab is my safety and self-respect.’
– Muna, school teacher
‘Dhaka is a very busy city though a few women travel by bus. Whenever I went outside I faced the problem that men used to look at me badly. I started feeling very angry and did not know what to do. My friend started wearing a hijab a couple of months ago and advised me to also wear a hijab. After wearing a hijab I am mentally satisfied that at least I am not showing my body to people. If they still try to see me, it is their ill behavior.’ – Lima
I am in the last semester of my MBA. I have been wearing a hijab for six years now. It wasn’t for any reason of fashion nor for conservatism. Islam encourages women to wear decent clothes and commands them to cover their heads and bodies when they go out in public. I easily can move around as I feel safe in a hijab.’ – Nahid Haque
‘As a student I have to come out of my home every day. It is very difficult to manage time to get ready. When I am wearing a hijab it helps me to get ready easily. Also my family does not have to worry about me much as girls who wear hijabs face less teasing in the street.’ – Tania
‘Many girls are wearing hijabs for fashion. But this should not be. A hijab is to protect you from evil eyes. The girls who are very open and show their bare skin in public are seeking attention from men. But a hijabi girl is beautiful because she realizes her inner beauty more than her outer beauty.’ – Tajnuva
‘A girl can wear a hijab and still be beautiful. It gives us protection and respect.’ – Sharmin
‘From my teenage years I have been wearing a hijab. It is part of being beautiful. In some universities in Dhaka a full veil is not allowed, so I choose a hijab. It is comfortable and always protective.’ – Sania Sultana, a student
‘I am a teacher and have been wearing a hijab for three years. I do not support girls who are doing it for style or who use it as fashion. It has remained as a protector for women for hundreds of years. Women feel comfortable and it brings security for a decent girl who does not want to show bare skin. Some people argue a woman should not wear a hijab as it makes them look weak, but I completely disagree. It takes courage in a world of style where women tend to wear short clothes. Its dignified Muslim women who cover up their bodies and go searching for respect rather than seeking attention.’ – Simul, teacher
‘I believe in modesty. It’s been three years since I have been wearing a hijab. For me it is a self-defense as it has protected me from evil eyes. I am a Muslim and a married working woman. Since the day, I started wearing a hijab I noticed that men in the streets were not bothering me insistently. It has given me a sense of dignity and I started seeing respect in people’s eyes for me. When I cannot stop evil eyes at least I can cover up myself and follow the advice that my religion gives me.’ – Subarna Parvin (28 years old), teacher
‘I have been wearing a hijab for more than eight years. My mother, grandmothers all wore hijabs or veils. It is not about style or fashion. It is mandatory for a Muslim woman to wear a hijab.’ – Tajlima Akter
‘Muslim women can be stylish like Western girls. For that there is no need to show skin. I feel a hijab makes a girl more beautiful. Not only does it protect the dignity of the girl, but it also it protects hair and skin.’ – Papia
‘Everyday more girls are wearing hijabs. It’s a protection from sunlight and pollution. By wearing a hijab I am covering my hair and wearing decent clothes. I feel very much protected since the day I started wearing a hijab.’ – Pihu
Life was never easy for Jarina Begum. During childhood she lost her parents in the Kamplapur railway station. She had no memory of her childhood. Lonely Jarina’s struggle never takes a break. After living here and there at the age of twelve, people from her locality gave her a marriage with Ismail. She knew nothing about family life though she started to dream. A few years went well. This was the best time of her life. But when her only son died at the age of twelve her family was shattered. Her husband got involved in drugs. Her happiness lost in darkness. She again gets back her hope during her second pregnancy. ‘Mali’ arrives as an angel in her life. She started dreaming about having a normal life again. But fate was not on Jarina’s side. She discovered when Mali was two years old that she is mentally disabled. Also when Mali was two Jarina’s husband died from taking excess drugs. Till today ‘Disabled Mali’ is the reason to live Jarina’s Life.
Now Jarina is only Mali’s maa. Mali behaves like a child at the age of thirteen. She has very slow mental growth. Jarina has to connect her to a chain so that she cannot flee alone while her mother went to work. She was lost twice while Jarina went to work. The tragedy of Jarina losing her own parents is like a nightmare for her. She does not want to lose Mali again. After finding her, she found a way to keep Mali at their place. She chained her with a long chain. She goes to work in the morning and works madly while feeling the tension of Mali. She collects paper from the road. She carefully crosses the road everyday as she knows if she died there is no one for Mali. With cloudy eyes Jarina said, ‘I put a chain on her leg and put a stone in my heart’. While she was saying this, Mali untied her pajama bottoms and squatted to do her toilet. Jarina swiftly wnt there and covered her daughter with a cloth. Mali is Jarina’s world.
Jarina dreams one day Mali will be okay. Sometimes she gets upset thinking, if Mali could be like other girls, she could help her with earning a living; she could understand how hard it is to work feverishly. But Mali understands nothing. She can only feel the touch of love, the smile of affection. When Jarina ties her hair Mali gives kisses on her mother’s cheeks. When Jarina is feeding her, Mali takes some rice and puts in her mother’s mouth. They have nothing; no home, and no furniture and no utensils with which to cook. This mother and daughter have only love that is sheltering them so far.
As street people, Jarina and Mali have nothing. They only possess a few household materials that Jarina ties up and hides in a neighbor’s place because Mali cannot take care of anything while her mother goes to work. The neighbors of Jarina help her when she goes to work. They look out for Jarina if someone comes to disturb disabled Mali. The neighbor Kalpona said, ‘There is no one for this mother and daughter. They are living for each other. We see no one like Jarina who is doing this much for Mali. We pray for their happiness.’
Jarina Begum has now only one dream in life: to educate Mali in order to give her a normal life and to see her as an able person. Jarina pointed at the pen and drawing paper of Mali and said, ‘If there is any heartfelt person who could admit her to a school for the disabled then I can I die in peace’. While embracing Mali, Jarina lastly said, ‘Pray for us so that we, the mother and daughter, can die together. Why is life so painful?’
I grew up seeing my ancestors’ orange beards or hair. It is so common in our culture that I was hardly curious to know why older Muslim people colour their hair, beards or moustaches. With time I learned and found out that it was very natural to know about the importance of henna in Muslim Culture.
But for the first time I realized and wanted to know about the real motivation of different individual Muslim men and women for dyeing their grey hair. The first time I started asking the question was when many of my foreigner friends asked me about it frequently during their visits in Bangladesh. Then I started noticing that this colour is making this older generation different. So I started asking the Muslim older generation why they colour their grey beards or hair and what is it that they are so fond of?
This series consists of portraits of men and women in Bangladesh who have dyed their hair or their beard using the orange-red colour produced by the flowering Henna plant. They shared with me why they use this henna in particular. It’s very common in Bangladesh to see one older person in five old people with orange hair (male or female), and men with orange beards or orange moustaches.
During Ramadan dying hair or beards is a very common practice as Henna dying comes from religious beliefs too. It has been believed that the Prophet Muhammad (SM) dyed his beard and hair as well. Some men and women who have returned from the Haaj, the Islamic pilgrimage also practice Henna dying. Not only in Bangladesh, but many Muslims across all continents apply Henna dye and coat their hair to get this bright coloured look.
For those who did not reference religion as playing a role in their decision to color their hair, they consider it admirable to do so. They believe, Henna covers their head and body and makes them look good in their old age. Therefore, for some other elderly people, especially women, Henna is mostly used as a cosmetic thing for their grey hair. A lot of men also see a red beard as preferable to a grey or white beards. Besides this reason many older persons usually follow this practice for cultural or traditional reasons, as they saw that older generations always prefer henna dying.
Why did you use Henna dye?
Answers of question:
‘I am not old. We all eat polluted food and that causes hair loss and greying is faster. Henna helped to hide my grey hair. Grey means old’ – Mohamaad Sagir
‘It’s our Sunnat. Our Prophet Muhammad used it’ – Gias Uddin
‘Henna helps to clam down my head and body. I dye my hair every month.’ – Abdul Majid
‘I use henna dye because I love to do it. What else!’- Yusuf Haulader
‘I love color more than grey. It’s my fashion. Ha ha ha’ – Mohammad Oli
‘It distinguishes Muslim. It is our culture’ – Obaidullah
‘Who likes grey hair? I want to be young. Ha ha ha’ – Kashem
‘Most of my friends do henna dying. For the last two years I am doing it also’ – Gias Uddin
‘Since I have come from the Haaj I started applying Henna to my hair. It has religious value’- Abdul Samad
‘Not only have I, but my wife has dyed her hair to hide the grey. Both of us want to remain young. Ha ha ha’ – Abdul Kader
‘It’s our tradition, our Muslim tradition’ – Amina
‘My grandfather did it, my father did it and now I am doing it. All older Muslim people love to practice this generation after generation.’ – Mohammad Alam
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"I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls" For me Photography is my language, to access, to communicate, to identify and mostly to make it hear. Through photography I only jot down my heart’s language. The best part about being a photographer is that I’m able to articulate the experiences of the voiceless and to bring their identities to the forefront which gives meaning and purpose to my own life. I have received more than 68 international awards and my work has been featured in over 70 major, international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue,Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London. In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris — once again, the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 I was awarded “Best of Show” at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. And in 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my premier book “First Light”. In 2007 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30), sponsored by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I won the 7th Vevey International Photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009 and in the same year, I took home the international ‘Travel photographer of the Year” title at the International Travel Photographer of the Year Competition (TPOY 2009) in the UK, the most prestigious award in travel photography. I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and as well I was the first Bangladeshi in Ted talk at TEDxOporto 2011, in Portugal. I was one of the speaker of “7th Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism”, Yogyakarta / Indonesia”. In 2011 Nikon has selected me as one of the 8 influencers in Asia pacific (APAC region). Presentation of my 10 years project published as form of book ‘Survivors’ in 2012, which has reviewed by prestigious Geo magazine.